NSW Police Aim to Conduct 200,000 Mobile Drug Tests Representing an Increase From the Previous Year

By Poppy Morandin and Jimmy Singh.


It has been revealed that NSW Police have set a target to detect almost 300,000 crimes this year and are using area-specific goals to achieve this result.

The approach covers a number of detections in numerous categories of crime including theft, robbery, sexual assault, and drug detection.

The targets are known as “Community Safety Indicators” and, according to an NSW Police spokesperson lead to a reduction of crime.

“By monitoring performance across a range of key policing areas, commanders are able to ensure their police are providing the best possible service and safest community standards to the citizens of NSW,” the spokesperson said.

There are significant biases evident in the targets set, with quotas in the Broken Hill, Campbelltown City, Mount Druitt, and Kings Cross area commands notably higher than on the North Shore.

Notably, the target for the offence of robbery in Ku-ring-gai on Sydney’s Upper North Shore has fallen by 20% this year despite the actual incidents of robbery in the area tripling since 2016.

Advocates have indicated that quotas can often be counterproductive in that they may create biases within targeting.

“Police are applying a set of values and stereotypes they are not even aware of, and so when you have targets the reliance on those stereotypes becomes more acute in the furtherance of meeting those targets,” said Professor Thalia Anthony from the University of Technology Sydney law school.

This can impact adversely on Indigenous Australians and other vulnerable groups.

“Policing-by-quotas is a rigged system that justifies the over policing of lower socioeconomic areas by continuing to over police them. Policing should be about working with the community, not looking to search & harass people for the sake of filling quotas.”tweeted Sniff Off, a Greens founded organisation campaigning for police accountability.

In comparing the data for targets of warrants executed this year, Broken Hill is set at a goal of 13 warrants per 1000 people whereas the North Shore has a target of merely 0.3 per 1000 people.

Targets relating to drug detection have increased higher than any other category.

In response to this factor, Professor Murray Lee, director of the Sydney Institute of Criminology at the University of Sydney said that when specific offences are focused on, it can often inflate figures, in that it becomes a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”

In the suburb of Mount Druitt targets relating to rates of drug detection have risen by 247%.

NSW Police aim to conduct 200,000 mobile drug tests, with this number considerably increasing from previous years.

Drug detection targets have concerned advocates, especially in light of the often-problematic nature of roadside drug testing.

A study by the University of Sydney has found that the devices NSW Police use for roadside testing, branded ‘Securetec DrugWipe’ and ‘Draeger DrugTest 5000’ often provide inaccurate results.

The study uncovered that the ‘Securetec DrugWipe’ gave a false positive reading whenever it detected negligible concentrations 5 per cent of the time, whereas the ‘Draeger DrugTest 5000’ gave a false positive reading 10 per cent of the time.

“It’s a huge risk when you have the chance of a false positive,” said Professor Thalia Anthony.

“You’re unnecessarily engaging people in law enforcement…either paying the fine or disputing the fine or going to court so you’re really posing a burden that is excessive.”

Professor McGregor explained that: “you’ve got this real problem where some people who have 50 times more THC [in their] saliva may not be pinged, compared to someone who has a different type of saliva,”

“We need better science and better guidance around when cannabis users are safe to drive.” he continued.

In NSW, you do not have to be impaired by drugs to be charged and convicted with a drug driving offence. This sounds absurd because it is absurd. Unfortunately this is the current situation in NSW.

The presence of an illicit substance in your system (within your saliva, blood, or urine) is sufficient to support a charge, pursuant to Section 111 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW).

A defence may be available in some cases where the accused has made an ‘honest and reasonable mistake of fact’, which entails that they were truly unaware that the drug was in their system. These drugs can include THC, ecstacy, Speed, morphine or cocaine.

Click here for an outline on your rights if confronted by police for mobile drug testing in NSW.

In the case of a first offence, the maximum penalty for an offence under Section 111 is a criminal conviction with a fine of $2,200, whereas this grows to $3,300 in the case of a second or subsequent offence.

A first time offender’s driver licence will also be automatically disqualified for 6 months, or a minimum period of 3 months if the court thinks fit to order this shorter period, pursuant to Section 205(2)(a) of the Road Transport Act 2013.

A second or subsequent offender’s driver licence will be automatically disqualified for 12 months, or minimum of 6 months at discretion of the Magistrate or Judge.

Recently, Magistrate David Heilpern stepped down from his position at Lismore Court. In regard to the offence, he said that: “I just thought the laws were so grossly unfair that I didn’t feel that I could continue to apply them,”

“An enormous number, the vast majority of people who are brought before the courts on this charge, are not affected [by the drug].”

“People would lose their licence, therefore they would lose their job. Therefore, they could well lose their house. Their relationships were affected. People became very much more isolated,” he continued, highlighting the extremely harmful nature of the potential impacts that a strong focus on raising offence detection levels and the possibility of faulty testing may create.

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